After a fantastic 25th reunion at Exeter, Sarah Coates and I flew overnight to Paris and onto Naples. Exiting the airport Vesuvius looms from every turn. We hope it isn’t nearing its 70 year burst. Endless turns finally take us to the magical and ancient Amalfi coast where siren calls ruined men and boats and dreams. The water is turquoise and navy. The cliffs rise steeply up from the water and rugged stone beaches. Elegant, colorful, impossibly built towns perch precariously from the rock, some integrated right into the stone. We arrive at the lovely Belmond Caruso in Ravello tired but dazzled. A simple but elegant room opens to a full grassy garden with chaises longues and a patio with painted ceramic table and chairs with a jaw dropping view up the coast. My first nap is deep and peaceful moments after arrival on the chaise with birds chirping and the smell of lemons lulling me to sleep.
Much refreshed we head to Villa Ruffalo in central Ravello, a garden that has evolved over 1000 years around cloisters and eventually a turn of the century villa. Yet again, the views are magnificent over domes and a rainbow of geraniums out over the sea. Pleasant classical music set the tone. In the summer they hold live concerts here.
We amble back to the Belmond, robe up, and settle in at the pool where we are greeted by one of the world’s great waiters, Danilo, who offers us the tastiest creation of Elderberry St Germain, prosecco, and fresh rosemary, mint, lime, and orange. A Yugo. YUM. Refreshing and light. It is a bit cool to jump in, but The views over the infinity pool are mesmerizing. Dinner is in the open air restaurant. Homemade dense, delicious linguine with scampi, herbs, and lemon followed by an array of desserts. Exhausted we crash into a deep sleep until morning despite the jet lag.
We wake to an emerging blue sky and a warm enough day which turns into the perfect day as we have splurged for an all day boat trip around Capri and the coast. This surpasses our expectations in every way. It is bikini weather, and we decide nirvana is soaking in the sun lounging on the back of the boat gazing at the coast and the sea. We pass Nureyev’s old island which can now be rented out. We see Mussolini’s stark villa atop Capri, untouched swathes of trees and cliffs and flowers interspersed with classic white washed villas. The blue grotto is ridiculously crowded so we ignore it and find several other breathtakingly blue grottos and bays for swimming. The water is bracing but feels wonderful. I feel the salt hit my lips as I slip in. Sarah is like a dolphin utterly at ease and swims gracefully through the sparkling waters. She is in heaven!
A small boat takes us from the boat to Concha di Sogna (bay of dreams) for a waterside lunch of spaghetti a la vongole and ravioli caprese followed by fresh lemon sorbet. We can’t believe the setting, an emerald Green Bay to our right. Sarah plunges into the azure water in another grotto. Without a ladder I would have been left in the sea so I’m happy instead as photographer on the little boat.
Vlad and Emilio are giving us a splendid day. We are somewhat surprised when we see an Italian couple with a major love of PDA are really going for it on the beach Vlad had originally chosen. Pretty gross! Poor Vlad is distraught and quickly lifts the anchor to find a less porny beach!!! We laugh hard while he navigates to a lovely protected bay a ways on. The day has flown by, the temperature a steady 72 until 5:30. It was a completely relaxing and luxurious way to experience the Amalfi Coast.
The Belmond gardens extend over several large terraced areas and are filled with lemon trees, olive trees, jasmine, white roses, Bougainvillea, and herbs. Fragrant, peaceful, and masterfully designed. We take an hour to enjoy. Dinner is lighter fare at the bar at a window table where we watch the blues fade into inky night. Caprese salad and a split ravioli fill the bill. Delightful.
We wake to rain Wednesday and wonder if we should stick with our plan to hike the Sentiero degli Dei—-Path of the Gods. We linger over another luscious breakfast of strawberries, kiwi, focaccia, fresh fluffy ricotta, lemon yogurt, and fresh mint tea. The waiter says “This is not rain. It is just the sound of the rain”!! Satiated we bet the rain will stop and Gianpierro, another charming local, drives us to pick up the trail in Bo Merano. It is happily well marked and a world class, mind blowingly beautiful trail with cliffs to our right and the sea and gorgeous small towns on our left.
After a gorgeous nature filled hike we get to Nocelle where we descend 2000 steps (for real, knees screaming). 2 hours start to finish vs the hotel’s estimated 3! I’m feeling very proud as this marks the one year point after my massive spine surgery and surviving one year of cancer. One hell of a journey from that first week in the hospital bed. We race through Positano (which we revisit on Friday) to just make the ferry to Amalfi. We take off our shoes to board as the waves are roaring onto the pier. Exciting!! It is a stunning 30 minute ride to Amalfi where we crazily decide to ascend the mountain back to Ravello. 50 sweaty, tired, twisting stairs and paths minutes later we practically collapse into the hotel. A Yugo and a margarita pizza save us before we settle into a heavy nap. What a day!!!! Dinner is spring vegetables, grilled fish, lemon and strawberries. A loud drunk Canadian group almost destroys the setting, but fortunately they crash early. The waiters spoil us. Danilo tells us it is his birthday. He is going to enjoy time with his son and family, “and make love to my wife 1000 times”. Ah the Italians!!!! He made our stay wonderful, and he was also part of a generous surprise from a wonderful old GS colleague who had honeymooned at the Belmond and who decided to treat us from 5000 miles away to a pizza at his favorite hotel from his favorite waiter. Ryan Feeney…cheers to you!!!
Today we tore our selves away from tthe Belmond to move to the Hotel Santa Caterina on the water in Amalfi. We plan to return! We also had a fascinating garden tour with the head gardener, and Villa Cimbrone’s ancient gardens blew our minds. More on that in my next post. I’m utterly relaxed. I miss my babies, but am with the best of friends and savoring every minute.
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